Chung Ling Soo would call it a Gift from the Gods. The Professor would say it is heaven sent. After 105 years, your prayers have finally been answered. The Conjuring Arts Research Center is proud to announce the publication of a brand new edition of S.W. Erdnase’s landmark 1902 book The Expert at the Card Table. Printed on the same paper as a bible, with gilt edges, a ribbon place holder and bound in soft leatherette.
The new typesetting includes numbered lines so you can now reference sleights via the Bible verse method. Carry “The Cardman’s Bible” comfortably in your shirt pocket without the slightest tell.
Visit www.erdnase.com //
Price: $15.00 SOLD OUT
My wife, Tina Lenert, and I were recently invited to perform at a magic festival in Badalona, Spain, a suburb of Barcelona. It was not a magic convention, but rather a festival geared to the lay community. We did three shows in a beautiful, hundred-year-old theater and the sold-out audiences were great.
Before leaving the States, I was told that this festival was honoring that great magician from the past – Chang. Upon hearing this, I was immediately transported back to age thirteen when I attended my first real magic show: Milt Larsen’s It’s Magic. The closing act was Chang – Latin America’s Greatest Magician.
I thought it a bit odd that a festival in Spain would be honoring a Panamanian illusionsit but that didn’t stop me from pulling a number of posters, programs and photographs out of Egyptian Hall Museum and carrying them with me to Spain. I thought I would surprise them with a nice display.
Every night after the show the entire cast enjoyed a huge dinner that never ended before 1:00 am. On the first night we were joined by Joan Maria Forns, the son of Chang. He was anxious to see what I had so I ran back to the theater to retrieve my treasures. Upon seeing the first photograph Joan said, “That’s not my father.”
Now it was my turn to be surprised.
To make a long story short: there were two Changs. The man that I saw in my youth was Juan José Pablo Jesorum and he was indeed born in Panama on December 2, 1889. Early in his career he used the name Li Ho Chang, later shortening it to simply Chang. He enjoyed a very long career that took him to Australia, China, Africa, India, Europe and America but his greatest success came in Central and South America where he lived and worked most of his life.
When I saw him in 1963 he was well past his prime at the age of 74. Being the first great illusionist I ever saw, my memories of him include gorgeous costumes, beautiful girls, well-trained assistants and huge illusions. Many years later, Milt Larsen told me the real behind-the-scenes story.
Milt had been instructed to meet the Great Chang at the bus station in downtown Los Angeles. There he encountered an old man carrying two battered suit-cases. Milt looked around for the truck carrying Chang’s show.
He soon learned that the suitcases were filled with costumes and a few tricks. That was the show.
Springing into action, as he had so many times before, Milt rallied the forces. Bob Towner, Bob Fenton, Bev Bergeron and George Boston were enlisted as assistants and there were always plenty of pretty girls around the newly opened Magic Castle. Some illusions were trucked in from Dante’s ranch. Having spent his entire career presenting a full-evening show, Chang was in no way intimidated by the props and people that now swirled around him. His vast experience and abilities as a showman would serve him well. To a wide-eyed, thirteen-year-old kid, this master mystifier commanded the stage and did not disappoint.
The father of the man I was dining with in Badalona, Spain was named Joan Forns and he also enjoyed a long career performing a Chinese magic act as Li-Chang. As a young man he had seen Fu Manchu’s spectacular show and by 1933 he had assembled his own show and was performing at Circ Olympia in Barcelona. It would appear that most of his career was spent in a circus ring. Europe has always been home to dozens and dozens of small, one-ring circuses and they often featured a magician. Of course Li-Chang’s act had to be carefully constructed to safely work in the round but once that was accomplished, he found plenty of work on the “sawdust circuit.”
It would also appear that the majority of Li-Chang’s career was spent performing in Spain though he did make limited forays into France (at the Moulin Rouge in 1956), England (Bertram Mills Circus 1964), Italy, Portugal, Germany and North Africa.
In 1947-48 Panama’s Chang was appearing in Barcelona, Spain and it was here that the two Changs finally met.
Juan Pablo Jesorum was still performing at the age of 82 when he died in Yucatan, Mexico in 1972. Joan Forns died at age 81 in Barcelona, Spain on January 12, 1998.
Before leaving Badalona I was given a full-color book published by the Badalona Museum in 2004 on the life of Joan Forns: Li-Chang. The text is written in Catalan (a language spoken in the northeast region of Spain) but it is filled with beautiful graphic images from througout Li-Chang’s long career.
Returning home, I checked the usual sources (David Price, Milbourne Christopher) and found no refrence to Spain’s Li-Chang which led me to suspect that I was not the only one who believed in the one-Chang theory.
Having recently examined a number of photos, programs, letters, Christmas cards, newspaper reviews and posters, I now believe that Panama’s Juan José Pablo Jesorum was always called Li Ho Chang early in his career and Chang later on. Spain’s Joan Forns always used the name Li-Chang.
Egyptian Hall has a number of Li-Chang posters subtitled El Demonio Amarillo (The Yellow Demon). I always assumed that these advertised Panama’s Chang but I now believe that they were printed for Joan Forns in Spain (perhaps Valencia) in 1946.
I would like to thank Enric Magoo for inviting us to Spain where this entire mystery was ultimately solved. And thanks also to Joan Maria Forns, son of Li-Chang, who spent years working as an assistant in his father’s show, for a wonderful evening of stories that brought another small piece of magic history into clearer focus.
During the first couple of decades of the twentieth century “ask Alexander” meant drop a question (along with a dollar bill) into an envelope and send it to 239 South Oxford Avenue in Los Angeles. By return mail your question would be answered by Claude Conlin aka Alexander the Man Who Knows.
These days, to magic historians around the world, “ask Alexander” are the words spoken just before you sit down at your computer and type a name into AskAlexander, the Conjuring Arts Research Center’s massive data base. Claude Conlin pretended to have all the answers but AskAlexander seemingly does have all the answers.
A few months back I needed some answers about Alexander the mentalist and instead of visiting my favorite web site, I turned off my computer and actually visited The Man Who Knows. OK, it was the son of The Man Who Knew but at this late date, that was as close as anyone was going to get to the man.
In 2004 I published David Charvet’s book on Alexander and it proved to be the fastest selling book in our series of Magical Pro-Files. Within eighteen months, it was out of print. During that time, Alexander’s son, John Conlin, moved from Arizona to within a half-an-hour drive from my house. David Charvet and I joined him for dinner one evening and we soon learned that he was indeed a chip off the old block. The stories were unceasing and each one was more incredible than the last.
I believe John Conlin is the only person I’ve ever met who can say he shook hands with Harry Kellar. When John described a photo he had of a Pantages Theater with crowds of people lined up outside and a huge Alexander billboard visible above the entrance, I said we would love to see it. “Sure,” John said, “it’s up in my room.” Later that evening he pulled four huge scrapbooks out of his closet and said, “Here, it’s in one of these.” David and I sat there slack-jawed as we paged through the mother lode of Alexander memorabilia.
Any thoughts I had of merely reprinting the Alexander book vanished in an instant. Anything less than a whole new book would be an insult to this wonderful archive. With the generous help of John and his son, Alexander Patrick Conlin, these scrapbooks traveled to the Magic Words office where dozens of images were scanned. And just when David thought his days of researching the life of Alexander were over, he was back in the thick of it.
Since the publication of the first book, I have come to know Cathy Stevenson, granddaughter of Alexander’s brother, CB Conlin, and the Conlin family historian. Cathy agreed to organize the results of her considerable research into an appendix. Here we learn that CB Conlin starred as Psycho in his own mind-reading act and experienced adventures that rivaled those of his infamous brother.
The new expanded edition of Alexander – The Man Who Knows is now available at Mike Caveney’s Magic Words
Similar to the Summer 2007 issue where we reprinted Horatio Galasso’s Giochi di carte belissimi (Most beautiful card games), this issue features a new and complete translation of Engaños a ojos vistas (Deceptions in Plain Sight) by Pablo Minguet è Yrol. Published in 1733, Minguet was Spain’s first book devoted to the teaching of conjuring secrets. This is the first time his examplary early text has been translated into English.
In addition to the translation, there are also introductory and supplementary articles by Stephen Minch, Juan Tamariz, and Enrique Jimènez-Martinez, including a checklist of editions by Mr. Jimènez-Martinez and William Kalush.
Original copies of Minguet are rather rare so it is a real treat to offer this translation which, combined with the supplementary materials, provides a unique opportunity to learn a great deal about a fascinating and previously inaccessible work.
Our fourth volume begins the year with two new and fascinating articles. As with all of our contributions, these articles feature novel discussions of previously little known or practically lost historical information.
We begin with “The Thought-Reader Craze” by Barry Wiley. Well known for his scholarship, this article features original research and commentary on the fascinating beginnings of the one-man mental act, and the techniques of contact mind-reading and muscle reading. A number of engaging characters and stories emerge during this study, featuring John Randall Brown, Washington Irving Bishop, and Stuart Cumberland.
Our second article in this issue features the fifth installment of Mitsunobu Matsuyama’s “An Investigation into Magic in Japan After the Opening of the Country”. The previous four installments have appeared in previous issues and are quite glorious. This article is similarly endowed.
Of course we have included a number of striking photos and graphics to highlight the text. Additionally, the issue features a number of improvements in design, including a splendid embossed cover, that make this one of the most beautiful issues ever.
The first piece, “Vernon the Mesmerist”, is by Peter Lamont, author of The Rise and Fall of the Indian Rope Trick and The First Psychic, and features the escapades of W.J. Vernon, a proponent of phrenology and mesmerism.
The next article features a further installment in Mitsunobu Matsuyama’s series “An Investigation into Magic in Japan after the Opening of the Country”. This time he looks at some of the first magicians to adopt western magic effects and some of the early foreign magicians to introduce western magic into Japan.
Finally we end with a look at the history of nail writing and pencil reading in “Lessons Written with a Small Gimmick” by Loren Pankratz. In addition to providing some of the earliest references to date for these secret subterfuges, there is also some intriguing information on two fascinating characters, William Eglinton and S.J. Davey, whose methods were considered superior to the prominent Henry Slade and still leave even present day magicians nonplussed.
The first issue of our third volume includes the fascinating third installment of Mitsunobu Matsuyama’s “An Investigation into Magic in Japan after the Opening of the Country.” This time he is solving the mystery of Soto Sunetaro’s arrival in the U.S.A. and discussing the role that Soto played in the history of de Kolta’s “Expanding Die” illusion.
Dr. William Spooner has contributed a history of the ideomechanic pendulum commonly known as the “Sex Detector.”
Volker Huber returns to provide a solution to the source of German artist Max Beckmann’s puzzling lithograph, “Magic Mirror.”
We have also included the first English translation of Satana raccolta Europea: passatempo dell’intermezzo nelle sedute: di magia egiziana: del cavaliere Bartolomeo Bosco, a rare and early biography of the renowned sleight-of-hand performer Bartolomeo Bosco. And we are very excited that this new translation includes an introduction by Ricky Jay.
In this issue we’ve made a brief departure from our usual style. In lieu of articles on various subjects, we’ve dedicated our current issue to the translation and analysis of one of the rarest and most important books in the history of magic.
In 1593, Venice, Italy, Horatio Galasso’s Giochi di carte belissimi (Most beautiful card games) was printed for the first time. No less important for our history than Scot’s Discoverie of witchcraft or Prevost’s La premiere partie des svbtiles, et plaisantes inventions, Galasso’s book broke new ground in early card magic. During the late 16th century we have numerous accounts of great sleight of hand men traveling around Europe performing card magic, but with Galasso’s seminal work we now have a book with numerous methods. Here for the first time is the explanation of what became the famous 21 card trick. Also here for the first time is the system that would later be attributed to Si Stebbins.
This rare treasure, which is only known in two examples, has now been translated into English by Lori Pieper.
More importantly, we now have the distinct pleasure of publishing the esteemed Vanni Bossi’s detailed analysis of this wonderful book.
As many of you may have heard, Mr. Steve Forte recently put a large portion of his collection up for sale and auction. We managed to acquire several salient pieces which we have assembled at the Research Center and are exceptionally excited about. One item that particularly stands out is a pair of boots used for counting cards in the game of blackjack.
These boots allow the user to code the values of the cards that appear during the game through the use of the toes! As the cards are depleted, the user can receive information pertaining to the upcoming cards and bet accordingly. This can result in a considerable advantage. One can only hope that Nike will soon put out their own version of Nike Air Steve’s for public consumption. Can you imagine the commercial?
We start with Volker Huber’s “The Educated Swan”. Here he looks in depth at the history and development of this centuries-old trick.
This issue continues Mitsunobu Matsuyama’s look at Japanese magic from issue two with “An Investigation into Magic in Japan after the Opening of the Country, Part II”.
Aurelio Paviato looks into an early book to bring us a number of salient references to cheating and magic in “Notes on Pietro Aretino’s Le Carte Parlanti”.
We conclude with a fascinating discovery of what may well be a previously unrecorded professional magician in the Bamberg line. Peter Bräuning documents his findings in the article “Abraham Bamberg: The Augmentation of a Dynasty”.
All in all a great issue from our talented contributors. If you are not currently a member, please look into joining in order to receive future issues of Gibeciere and other benefits.